One typically wouldn’t lump subways and art galleries into the same category, but the city of Naples, Italy has set out to change that with its Art Stations program. It has since transformed the city’s underground into a subterranean museum that gives all travelers the opportunity to experience the work of some of the most cutting-edge artists working today.
More than 180 artworks from 90 contemporary artisans are spread throughout 13 subway stations across the city. Curated by Achille Bonito Oliva—the famed Italian art critic who also directed the 45th Venice Biennale—the program also enlists renowned architects to build these transportation hubs.
One of the gems of the collection is the Toledo station, designed by Barcelona-based architect and all-around artist Oscar Tusquets Blanca. According to his web site, Blanca is “an architect by profession, designer by adaptation, painter by vocation and writer out of the need to make friends.” And he’s no stranger to such collaborations as this project required. “To
collaborate with artists, which makes other architects uncomfortable, is something I love,” he explains “I’ve done it with painters, sculptors, stained-glass artists, ceramists and landscape architects in many of my works.”
As someone who knows the importance of appropriate and meaningful art curation within a space, Blanca understood that the interiors of the Toledo station needed to keep up with the presentation without overpowering it. He eventually settled upon a theme of water and light. “Louis Khan assured that there is no suitable architectural space without the presence of natural light,” Blanca says.
He brings it in via powerful, impactful skylights and an immense crater (the Crater de Luz), which carries light from the Quartieri Spagnoli plaza above to the Bisazza glass tile-encrusted grotto below. These spectacular blue mosaics get more intense the deeper you go into the station. The sunlight from the crater is enhanced by the subtle interplay of LEDs, thanks to
software programmed by Robert Wilson of Relative Light.
By comparison, the first level focuses on mainly black tones as a reference to the asphalt above; they also serve as a backdrop to striking mosaics by William Kentridge. The first, entitled “Central Railroad for the city of Naples, 1906 (Naples Procession),” features a cavalcade of figures inspired by the history of the city. The second is located above the escalators and is titled “Remediation of the slums of Naples in relation to the railway station, 1884 (Naples Procession).”
A series of pictures by Achille Cevoli entitled “Men at Work” can also be found on the walls near the fixed staircase. It is dedicated to those who completed the excavation of the tunnels and construction of the stations.
These presentations are just to name a few found throughout these powerful interiors. With such engaging surroundings, it’s a wonder that
anyone gets anywhere in Naples.